Friday night we were blessed to receive a group of students from Saint Louis University. The students are all mission-leaders involved in the campus ministry there. As part of their Spring retreat, they participate in a service project for a few hours at the beginning of the weekend. This year our house was that service project (more of service-learning really). After the usual introduction to community life, we discussed the difference in short-term mission trips to distant places versus long-term, local immersion in a different culture. Both approaches have strengths and liabilities: short term missions are powerful, full of energy, and task-oriented. They often fail to build significant relationships, however, and make little long-term social change. Long-term missions tend to have less manpower and struggle to accomplish manual tasks; nevertheless, they provide opportunities to make a long-term social difference through the formation of lasting relationships.

What we have found to be most effective in our work at Mark Twain has been a combination of the approaches: Lotus House and the North City Church serve as the long-term centers of activity in the neighborhood, while mission groups from around the country support us financially, emotionally, and physically. The physical support comes from the many building and maintenance projects that the groups help us with throughout the summer months.

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